When it comes to college applications or simply applications in general, many African Americans and Hispanics are already up on the “I choose not to disclose” game when it comes to identifying race out of fear of being discriminated against, but now it seems many Asian students are having to go this route as well. Many students of Asian descent from one or both parents, whose last names don’t give away their heritage, have found that when it comes to gaining acceptance into America’s top schools like Harvard and Yale, there is only one boxed to be checked for race: white.

According to an article by the Associated Press:

For years, many Asian-Americans have been convinced that it’s harder for them to gain admission to the nation’s top colleges.

Studies show that Asian-Americans meet these colleges’ admissions standards far out of proportion to their 6 percent representation in the U.S. population, and that they often need test scores hundreds of points higher than applicants from other ethnic groups to have an equal chance of admission. Critics say these numbers, along with the fact that some top colleges with race-blind admissions have double the Asian percentage of Ivy League schools, prove the existence of discrimination.

The way it works, the critics believe, is that Asian-Americans are evaluated not as individuals, but against the thousands of other ultra-achieving Asians who are stereotyped as boring academic robots.

Now, an unknown number of students are responding to this concern by declining to identify themselves as Asian on their applications.

While many students say that they are comfortable with their choice to essentially deny a part or all of who they are, a choice supported by their parents, other students aren’t as comfortable with the decision. The AP spoke with Jodi Balfe, a Harvard freshman who was born in Korea and came here at age 3 with her Korean mother and white American father, and against the advice of her high school guidance counselor, teachers and friends declared herself Asian on her college application. For Balfe the choice was easy, “I felt very uncomfortable with the idea of trying to hide half of my ethnic background. It’s been a major influence on how I developed as a person. It felt like selling out, like selling too much of my soul. I thought admission wouldn’t be worth it. It would be like only half of me was accepted.”

Have you ever had to deny your race? What are your thoughts on denying your race when applying to schools or jobs?


  1. whilome

    My kid is half-Asian and she already knows to put “black” or “multi-ethnic” on her apps. Discrimination against the “model minority” is well known in academic community.

  2. I’m part asian and I did not deny my heritage. For the applications that asked for my race I checked both the Black and Asian boxes or I checked other and put black and asian.

  3. Perverted Alchemist

    A lot of Asians are going to great lengths to deny their heritage, and academia is just at the bottom of the list (See: plastic surgery).

  4. whilome

    I think you are conflating two topics. Getting surgery to change the epicanthic fold is a misguided trend by a select few Asian women. Making sure that an Ivy league school doesn’t compare you to the other 4.0/36ontheACTs Asian person is more about self-advocacy.

    The only way the “hide that I’m Asian” trick even works is if the person has a Anglicized name. My blackanese child will still walk into a university with her “Lucy Liu with an afro” self.

  5. Perverted Alchemist

    Sure, but does self- advocacy work for them in the long run when in the end, they are still going to be seen as “just another Asian” in the public’s eye?

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